August 26, 2003

"The Stump is Black, the Foot is White...

...together they learn to walk upright, what a beautiful sight."

Okay, so that isn't actually one of the verses to the song by Three Dog Night, but it was originally the hope of the Royal Berkshire and Battle Hospitals NHS Trust. As an amputee, this is a story for which I just couldn't pass up comment.

Apparently Royal Berkshire and Battle Hospitals builds prostheses like Henry Ford built Model T cars - available in any colour, as long as it is white. Ingrid Nicholls is about to have an operation which will involved removing her foot. She is a woman of mixed race whose natural skin colour is decidedly dark. However, she was told she would have to pay for an artificial limb if she wanted a black foot.

A spokeswoman for the Trust admitted to the BBC, "She was originally told she would have to pay more for any other colour, but that has now been resolved." Apparently, they were able to dig around in the tax-funded coffers and find some money to pony up for it.

Not being one to ever be accused of being politically correct, I'm usually not moved by people who feel "angry and hurt". But here is a woman who is about to lose a major body part and face a life of disability and disfigurement. Then she is told that she is only entitled to have a white skin as the cosmetic as well as functional replacement for her foot.

Thames Valley Strategic Health Authority said it was all a "misunderstanding". A misunderstanding. A misunderstanding? Your foot is a size 6 and we gave you a 7? That's a misunderstanding. You needed it this week instead of next week? That's a misunderstanding. Black patients have to pay for black prostheses while white people get white prostheses for free? That is not a misunderstanding. That is simply outrageous.

Posted by david at August 26, 2003 12:03 AM | TrackBack